Sephardic Jews first came to Amsterdam in the late 15th century, escaping persecution in Spain and Portugal, and settled behind Waterlooplein, bordered by the Amstel and the Herengracht canal. They integrated successfully into Dutch life and flourished, with many working in the diamond industry. After enjoying years of religious freedom in Amsterdam, everything changed with the advent of World War II; the majority of Amsterdam’s 100,000 Jews were herded up and transported to Auschwitz and Belsen concentration camps. By 1945, less than 500 survived.
There are two kinds of cafes or coffee shops in Amsterdam – the famous ‘coffee shop’ which is one of the city’s main tourist attractions (though this is fast changing with the new laws coming in), and the brown cafes which actually serve coffee, beer and food and which are where you’ll find the locals relaxing in an atmosphere that is both vibey bar and laid back café.
As you’d expect from a country that made its wealth out of international trade in spices, and these days is one of the world’s most visited and international cities, Amsterdam has a huge range of foods and flavors. A few things not to miss while you’re there:
The annual Dutch Theatre Festival (Nederlands Theater Festival or TF) is on again this year from August 30th to September 9th.
The 10 best Dutch drama performances of 2011 and 2012, as selected by a professional panel, and the 10 best Flemish drama performances, selected by their specialist panel, will be staged to give audiences one last chance to see them. The grand finale of the season is The Gala of Dutch Theatre at which the public-voted theater award AVRO Toneel Publieksprijs 2012, Louis d’Or and Theo d’Or Theater Awards will be presented.
The Netherlands made itself rich during the 17th century – the Dutch Golden Age – by trading Asian spices through the Dutch East India Company. For over three centuries (1602-1942) what is now Indonesia was a Dutch colony. It’s not surprising then that Indonesian food is plentiful and excellent in Amsterdam.
In a city that knows how to party, this is the biggest and best party of the year: the Canal Parade, part of Gay Pride.
Saturday August 4, 2012 will see people lining along the canals and riverside to watch the parade of decorated barges pass by, topped with flamboyant costumed revellers, happy dancing and loud music.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest and most visited park. As well as duck ponds, cycle paths and excellent cafes, many of them very kid-friendly, it has the city’s Filmmuseum and also an Open Air Theater.
During summer, the Open Air Theater holds performances from June through August. This year the season runs from June 3rd until August 19th, 2012 with performances on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. In addition from August 31st to September 2nd there will be three special dance projects on the stage.
The Dutch are very child-friendly and so Amsterdam is a great city to take kids, with lots of activities just for them.
1) Canal Cruise
This one is fun for the entire family as you get to explore the world’s greatest canal city from a boat on the canals. Kids will love seeing all the barges that people live on, plus the many bridges, the crooked buildings and the harbor with its mix of the modern and the historic.
Here is a list of six events happening in Amsterdam this summer:
Amsterdam’s largest and favorite park, Vondelpark, comes alive during the summer. You will see people picnicking under the trees, feeding the ducks in the pond or joining the Friday night skate through town, which starts outside the Filmmusuem in Vondelpark at 8:30pm every Friday. The Film Museum based in the Vondelparkpaviljoen has outdoor screenings and the Open Air Theater has productions running from June through August. You can also simply sit on the balcony at the café/bar, Blauwe Theehuis, and enjoy those long twilight evenings when it stays light until 9 or 10pm.